Why are unionists coming out so strongly against Barry McElduff for his loaf-on-head video and against Sinn Féin for that party’s suspension of McElduff for three months?
I’m going to take a guess and say that in the case of McElduff’s video, the indignation of unionist politicians is nothing personal, just business. That is, I’m going to assume the best and believe that none of the unionist MLAs or MPs dislike Barry personally. On a couple of occasions when I was in Stormont seeing Barry, he seemed to be at least on greeting terms with any unionist politicians we encountered, and in some cases on cordial terms. So I’ll assume that when unionist politicians call for Barry’s head on a plate, it’s nothing personal, just business.
As for their indignation with Sinn Féin over the three-month suspension, I could take a guess and say that their wrath is because they feel for the relatives of the Kingsmill killings. I could but I won’t. There may be some unionist politicians who have real empathy with the Kingsmill people and who would have been by their side on the anniversary of the killings, but something tells me that their expressed compassion is linked to their abiding plan to damage Sinn Féin. In other words, it’s pay-back time for the republican weaponising of the crocodile remark.
We’re told that the new British proconsul, Karen Bradley, has telephoned both Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, urging them to settle their differences and get back into local government.
Good luck with that, Karen. With the heightened umbrage taken at the McElduff video, Arlene and her lieutenants won’t risk looking soft by agreeing to an Irish language Act or any explicit commitment to respect of republicans and nationalists. And if you think that’s a not-an-inch attitude, consider Sinn Féin. They’re almost certainly sincere when they say they want to return to Stormont, but they’re not stupid. They know that what has energized the republican/nationalist community is a refusal, after ten years, to go on being the DUP’s punch-bag. And they know that if they adopted a sweet reasonableness towards political opponents who would rather eat their own liver than show genuine respect for republicans in general and Sinn Féin in particular, their candidates would take an electoral thumping on the next polling day. It’s like Peter Finch in the movie Network: republicans and nationalists voters are mad as hell and not going to take it any more.
Someone should tell Karen.